Air France

Fancy a fast trip to London & Paris?

Tower Bridge at night

A few month’s back I was invited – actually, challenged – to visit Paris and London in just four or five days.

“Not possible,” I insisted. But I was willing to give it a try.

Here’s a slightly edited version of the story I wrote for Travel + Leisure with some ideas for how to do it.

Getting there and back

To make this fast trip work, fly into one city and out of the other, and book a seat on the high speed Eurostar train to travel between the two.

Plenty of airlines fly between the US and both London and Paris and it is possible to find deals on a one-way or open-jaw ticket using tools on airline comparison sites or a knowledgeable travel advisor.

British Airways currently offers up to 50 flights from the U.S. to London each day, depending on the season, from 26 U.S. gateways and will be adding flights from both Pittsburgh and Charleston to London in April 2019. The airline allows passengers to cut the cost of flights by using Avios points towards payment.

Air France currently offers more than 150 flights a week to Paris from 12 U.S. cities and is adding Dallas/Fort Worth as its 11th U.S. gateway on March 31, 2019. The French flag carrier offers flash fares to Paris (and other destinations) about once a month, so sign up to follow the carrier’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Eurostar trains make the trip from city center to city center, between London’s St. Pancras International Station to Gare du Nord in Paris, in just over 2 hours for a little as $60 each way. Eurostar ticket pricing fluctuates like airline tickets, with the lowest prices usually offered for midweek travel. Be sure to hold onto your boarding pass: it offers 2-for-1 entry to many museums and exhibitions in both cities.

Where to stay; what to do

Coal Drops Yard

In London, there are lots of hotel to choose from right near St. Pancras International railway station, which is steps from the British Library and its many free events and exhibitions. Nearby is the Wellcome Collection, a hip and free science and health-themed museum that markets itself to the “incurably curious.”

Coal Drops Yard, built in 1850 to handle the eight million tons of coal delivered to London each year, has been transformed into the city’s newest trendy destination. Located in King’s Cross, just a few minutes’ walk from St. Pancras, the shopping and dining center boasts more than 50 stores, restaurants and cafés, including the flagship store of Wolf & Badger, which gathers cool offerings from independent brands, and Casa Pastor, serving Mexican-inspired tacos, alongside mezcals, Mexican beers and imaginative margaritas.

For convenience and a hefty dose of the historic, splurge on a two-night stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, inside St. Pancras station. The “Seat to Suite” package includes lounge access as well as a concierge escort between your room and your seat on the Eurostar train, which departs from St. Pancras station.

If you’ll be heading back to the states from Paris, choose a hotel in the city center that offers easy access to museums, café and other top attractions.

The newly renovated 97-room Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel, near the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre in the city’s historic 1st arrondissement is a good option. Book a breakfast-included package (croissants galore!); seek out nearby “hidden gems” suggested by the hotel’s “Navigator”; and let the front desk book you a seat (preferably at the chef’s counter) in the hotel’s popular-with-locals Balagan Restaurant, which serves an ever-changing menu of Israeli-inspired Middle Eastern meals.

You can save time by combining touring and fine dining by having lunch or dinner at (or on) Ducasse sur Seine, chef Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant on an electric boat offering diners a 90-minute cruise on the Seine. Or board the Bustronome, a restaurant inside a double-decker bus that drives by many of the city’s top sights during a three-hour tour. (There’s a London version of this as well.)

You may not get your fill of croissants, baguettes, macarons or other French pastries during a quick two-day visit, but you’ll learn some professional French bakers’ tricks to take home during a gourmet walking tour or a French breach-making class organized by a local tour group such as Meeting the French.

Touring the (still new) Air France business lounge at CDG

It was officially completed in July (2018), but Air France’s business class lounge in Hall L of Terminal 2 E at Paris-Charles deGaulle Airport, still looks (and smells) brand new.

Here are some snaps from a recent tour of the 540-seat lounge capping off a fast four-day visit to London and Paris that included a ride on the Eurostar as part of the #LondonParisNow campaign.

The bar – called “Le Balcon” –  was designed by Mathieu Lehanneur and is self-serve much of the day, but from 6:30 p.m. to about 10 p.m. there’s a bartender on duty mixing up a menu of specialty-created cocktails.

Photo _ Harriet Baskas

The wellness area include restrooms with saunas, 20-minute complimentary Clarins spa services, a ‘detox’ bar with healthy potions and a quiet rest area with day beds.

 

Detox bar at CDG Air France lounge . Photo _Harriet Baskas

 

Detox potions at Air France CDG lounge. Photo Harriet Baskas

There’s also a special play for kids and a ‘Petit Salon’ area offering extra privacy for special guests:

Air France lounge at CDG – Kids area. Photo-Harriet Baskas

And then, of course, there’s food.  In addition to a self-serve buffet, there’s a “Gourmet Table” where a chef prepares a ‘dish of the day’:

 

 

Photo_Harriet Baskas

Air France says this is what passengers can look forward to in other cities where the lounges are scheduled to be upgraded as well.

Fun new flights!

Three new flights kicked off over the weekend that I wish I’d been on!

 

Air France began nonstop service to Paris from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday, March 25.

The service adds to Delta’s flights between SEA and CDG and kicks off with three times a week service (Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) on a Boeing 777-200 and increases to five times a week (adding Mondays and Tuesdays) during the summer season.

Air France first served Sea-Tac between 2007-2012, when that route was given taken over by Delta.

On Saturday, March 24, United Airlines kicked off seasonal nonstop daily service on a 787-8 Dreamliner between Denver and London Heathrow (LHR).

And over the weekend Qantas completed the inaugural – historic – flight for direct service between Perth, Australia and London. The 787-9 Dreamliner made the journey in ‘just’ 17 hours and 14 minutes.

 

Air France campaign promotes economy experience

Air France (launching flights between Seattle and Paris this weekend) is rolling out a cute campaign focusing not on its business or first class amenities – but on what it gives to economy pass passengers.

And what other airlines don’t.

Noting that ‘budget’ carriers offer low prices but minimal amenities, the “Take a Chance or Fly Air France” campaign touts the fact that economy class passengers on Air France pay low prices but also get amenities such as in-flight entertainment, warm meals, and champagne.

To make the point, Air France has made up give-away boxes containing items that may be useful to passengers flying economy class on other airlines:

  • 5 foot scroll of Sudoku puzzles for flights without free entertainment
  • Scratch-and-sniff boeuf bourguignon meal patch for flights without free hot meals and;
  • Champagne gummies for flights without free champagne

The boxes will be given away via a vending machine at an event at The Grove shopping center in Los Angeles on March 24 (with a few golden tickets good for two round-trip tickets on Air France in the mix), but the rest of us can enter to win a box of goodies by entering an online sweepstakes.

 

 

Chewing gum is often prescribed for travelers who experience pain in their ears due to changes in cabin air pressure as the plane takes off or lands and, in the past, was handed regularly on flights.

That tradition has gone bye-bye, but Air France is doing its part to bring it back.

The airline has created its own, all-natural, made-in-France chewing gum – “La gomme à mâcher” – with two flavors: pistachio-macaroon and crème brûlée.

The airline says the gum is now available before take-off on flights AF066 from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Los Angeles and AF084 from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to San Francisco and is being offered at various Air France lounges at Paris-Charles de Gaulle (Terminal 2E, hall M, K, L, and 2 F1, F2, G) and Paris-Orly (hall 3).

Air France isn’t the first to bring bag chewing gum as an in-flight amenity.

When Hawaiian Airlines celebrated the 85th anniversary of inter-island passenger service back in November 2015, the airline handed out packets of Wrigley’s gum to all passengers that day, because back in 1929, when the airline started flying the first amenity offered to passengers was a stick of gum to relieve ear pressure.